Harlingen Yarn Shop

Hello!

Thinking about knitting projects for the winter months and rummaging through my yarn boxes, I came across some yarn that I bought in Harlingen a while ago. I was going to write about it at the time, but then all kinds of other things cropped up and I never got round to it. Time to rectify that.

After dropping our charges off at the Harlingen ferry terminal on a glorious day in early autumn, we had the rest of the day to ourselves. As it was still early, we first went for a stroll on the dyke, saying hello to the two-headed stiennen man (stone man).

Harlingen (or Harns in Frisian) is the main port of Friesland, situated on the Wadden Sea coast. It was great to look out over the sea for a while.

And also to feel it under our feet, stepping onto the floating pontoon that’s there for bathers.

The wide open sky, the fresh air, the great expanse of water – so calming and uplifting. Why don’t we come here more often?

We took our time walking to the city centre via the harbour. I was keen to have a look at the replica of Willem Barentsz’ expedition ship. It set sail in 1596 to discover a new passage to China via the northeast. It is surprisingly small.

The woodcarving on the prow tells us the ship’s name: de Witte Swaen (the White Swan).

There were cannons on board for protection.

But they could not protect the crew from the greatest danger, the extreme cold. De Witte Swaen got stuck in the ice in the Arctic Ocean. Barentsz and his men were forced to spend the winter on the island of Novaya Zemlya. They built a lodge from driftwood and the wood of their colourful ship.

When they ran out of supplies, the crew decided to try and return in two small open boats. In the end only 12 of them returned. Barentsz himself did not survive. Yeah, it’s quite a story.

Well, let’s get back to the present day and continue on to the city centre.

There are many interesting buildings, a museum, a tile factory and lots of lovely shops here, including a wonderful bookshop, but I’m only taking you to one of them – a yarn shop called Atelier Swoop. It is run by mother-in-law/daughter-in-law team Geertje and Beau Ann.

Officially it is a ‘Scandinavian Concept Store’, selling Scandi style gifts and things for the home as well as knitting yarns, antiques and delicious home-made cakes.

(We had to sample these, of course, to make sure they really were delicious – I can now safely vouch that they are.) But to me it is first and foremost a yarn shop. So let’s take a look around at everything that may interest a knitter. The yarns in the shop all come from Denmark.

Here is a wall of Isager yarns. If the picture looks fuzzy on the left that’s the fuzziness of the ‘Silk Mohair’ yarn. On the right, Isager’s lace-weight ‘Alpaca 1’.

Here is a close-up of the top of the cabinet, with and adorable little knitted cardi, the ubiquitous dried hydrangeas and some antiques.

Small displays of yarn are dotted around the shop. This is some Isager ‘Spinni’:

And this is a thicker yarn that may be Isager’s ‘Jensen’ yarn, but I’m not entirely sure.

This cosy corner houses a CaMaRose yarn that really lives up to its name: ‘Snefnug’ (snowflake). It is very, very soft and airy, only much warmer than a snowflake.

There is also a small but interesting selection of knitting books and magazines, all with a northerly slant.

This attractive book is filled with warm outdoorsy colourwork sweaters in Norwegian and Icelandic yarns:

It is by Linka Neumann, and its title is Vilmarks gensere in Norwegian, Noorse truien breien in Dutch, Einfach nordisch stricken in German and Wilderness Knits in English.

Ah, that was lovely, tasting some delicious cake, browsing around, and chatting with Beau Ann and Geertje. And what did I leave the shop with? Three skeins of Isager Alpaca 1 (left) for a scarf for a friend. And a big bag of Isager Eco Soft (right) for a cardi for our daughter.

More about those in the New Year, I think. First I’d like to finish a few WIPs* and some gifts.

If you’re ever in the area, Harlingen is absolutely worth a visit. Please check out Atelier Swoop’s website (no web shop, brick-and-mortar only) for their opening hours. (In these uncertain times it may be best to contact them first to be on the safe side.) And there is a great website with loads of information about Harlingen here.**

Thanks for visiting Harlingen with me. Hope to see you again soon!

* WIP = Work In Progress
** As you’ll probably know by now, I’m not sponsored in any way. I only write about the things I write about because I think they are worth writing about.

Minibieb

Hello!

It was on my way to the Knitting and Crochet Days in Amsterdam in May 2019 that I saw the first minibieb (pronounced as: mini beep). It was a beautifully crafted boat, complete with mooring posts.

Over the past 18 months or so, when our ‘real’ libraries were closed for a long time, these little libraries have mushroomed around here.

During my walks and bicycle rides I’ve taken pictures whenever I passed one. Most of them are like small cabinets, some with sloping and others with pointed roofs (click on images to enlarge).

Similar, but still all different. Many of them have mottos, like ‘give and take’; ‘one out, one in’, or:

‘A good book can be shared together, borrowed, swapped, donated.’

Here is a peek inside one:

Several English books among the ones in Dutch, a few crime and other novels, and a book with the intriguing title Chuapi Punchapi Tutayaca (or is it the author’s name?). As well as one that is also on my own book shelves: Zomerboek (The Summer Book) by Tove Jansson – who would give that gem away, I wonder?  

Some little libraries are tiny…

… and found along city streets lined with wheelie bins.

Others are slightly bigger and found in out-of-the way places. Along a grassy path…

…I found this one, also selling plum jam and walnuts.

En route, I passed this sign, where we are meant to tralalalalaaaa our way to the next little library.

One little library in our neighbourhood is located inside a café.

And several provide benches, so that you can start reading straightaway, like this one.

And this one.

Nice, isn’t it, with little olive trees on either side of the bench. This minibieb is called Bieb aan ‘t Diep.

That means Library on the Canal. And this is what it looks out on.

I had a nice chat with the owner of this one…

… that has a bench with a brass plate on it saying ‘Little Book Bench’.

I asked her why she decided to start a minibieb. She told me of her lifelong love of books. She also mentioned things like social cohesion, enlivening the street and serving people (especially young and elderly) who can’t easily get to the public library.

I’m writing about the minibieb because I think it’s a wonderful new phenomenon. And also because there is a link between books and my new knitting design. We’ve already been out for a photo shoot. I’m working hard on the lay-out now and hope to publish the pattern next week. Here is a sneak peek.

Googling, I discovered that the minibieb movement started in Wisconsin in the US and that there now are little free libraries (as they are officially called) in 91 countries. Do you have them near you, too? Do you use them?

Some people seem to be worried that they will steal readers from the public libraries. Hm, maybe. Or maybe they’ll create new readers eager to move onto larger libraries after a while.

More information and a world map can be found on the Little Free Library website. The Dutch minibieb website can be found here. I don’t know if this goes for the rest of the world, but in the Netherlands there are many, many more minibiebs than those registered on the website. Once you’ve found one, you can always ask the owner if they know more near where you live.

Well, that’s all for today. I hope to be back next week with a knitting story. Bye for now and take care!

Quilts in Kampen

Hello, and welcome to the last of the outings on my blog this summer! Hope you have the time for a good long read. I have really tried to keep this post from getting too long, but failed miserably.

All of the other outings were close to home. This time we’re travelling a little further afield, to the city of Kampen. And this time it’s not just me, but also my husband you’re traveling with. Kampen is not very far afield (it is only about 28 miles from here), but somehow we rarely visit it and we really felt like tourists ourselves.

With less than 40.000 inhabitants city seems too big a word for Kampen, but that’s what it officially is, I think. One side of the city centre is bordered by a park and several old gate towers.

On the other side, there is the river IJssel, where several tall ships are moored today. The white ship on the left is The Flying Dutchman. When she is not in Kampen, the ship and her crew are sailing around Scotland, navigating the Caledonian canal, visiting the outer Hebrides and treating their passengers to Scottish whisky and music.

Like any other town or city at the moment, Kampen has its share of empty shops. It also has the usual chain stores that can be found everywhere else. But there are also many small and quirky shops, beautiful old buildings, museums etcetera.

This is the main shopping street with on the right an old tower called ‘the new tower’.

Below the carillon and the clock, something is dangling from the balustrade. On closer inspection that something turns out to be a cow. (Fortunately not a real-life one.)

Why? Can it be a farmers’ protest or something?

Branching out from the main shopping street there are many lovely narrow streets and alleys to discover.

My eye is always drawn to old buildings and I feel most at home in the older parts of towns and cities, but the juxtaposition of old and new can also be attractive.

The wooden buildings on the right are the workshops of the Koggewerf, where a shipwrecked kogge (a medieval wooden sailing vessel) found here was carefully reconstructed. Unfortunately, the kogge was out sailing and the buildings were closed, but just peeking in through the windows and looking at another boat and the buildings from the outside was nice too.

What really struck me in Kampen this time, is that it is very much a city of makers. Or maybe every town and city has them and they are just more visible here. Or maybe it was just that I was more open to them this day.

Anyway, as a maker myself I feel a sort of kinship with other makers. I make things with wool and other fibres, words and sometimes fabrics. But I’m also interested in people making things with wood, metal, dough, chocolate, glass, paper or in any other medium. What materials do they use exactly, how do they use them, what do they make and why? It’s the process of making things I’m interested in at least as much as the product. And here, in Kampen, we cannot only see the finished products, but also some makers at work actually making things.

This time we didn’t visit the smithy, the coffee roasting company or the cigar factory, but from a previous visit I can tell you that even for a non-cigar-smoker cigar making is interesting and the smell is overpowering!

We did see the chocolatiers at work, though.

Of course we had to sample some of their products.

I think that for my husband, as a great amateur cook and occasional chocolate maker, that was the highlight of the day. For me, it was SuperGoof Quilts.

Now that was a super lovely surprise. I didn’t know anything about this quilt shop. Turns out it is owned by a blogger who has been blogging about quilting since 2007! With a great sense of self-mockery, she calls herself SuperGoof, or Goof for short.

Of course SuperGoof Quilts is a shop, and of course it sells fabrics, as well as some other things. Just look at these fun stuffed toys with their finely knitted sweaters and hats:

But this is about more than buying and selling. What this is really all about is the love of making things.

The fabrics are lovingly chosen and express Goofs exquisite taste.

The fat quarters and eighths are neatly folded and lovingly displayed by colour. Here are the blues…

… and the reds.

I didn’t ask, but looking at the quilts on display, my guess is that red is Goofs favourite colour. Isn’t her sampler quilt stunning?

Would you believe that she doesn’t own a sewing machine? It is all done by hand! If that isn’t love.

Goof (sorry, I don’t know her real name) told me that as a mother of four teenagers, carer for her parents and maternity nurse, she used to get up before everyone else for a spot of quilting. Amazing that she found the time for it in such a busy life, but at the same time I totally understand how important it was for her. The quilt with the stork and the words ‘home is where the heart is’ reflects her life at that time.

The finished quilts are beautiful, but I also like it that there is quite a bit of work in progress on display.

And then there is this mouse quilt that was a mystery quilt-along project from autumn 2020 to spring 2021. I don’t know if you can zoom in, but there is so much to see on it.

More pictures and information about this quilt can be found here on SuperGoofs website. She doesn’t have a webshop, so you’ll just have to travel to Kampen to visit her some time!

Since I discovered her, I’ve been reading SuperGoofs blog. It has lots of lovely pictures and her writing is light and fun. She writes in Dutch, but in the top right-hand corner of her homepage, there is a Google Translate box where you can select your language. I just loved her recent post in which she explains how she reacts when non-quilters visiting her shop comment on how much time quilting must take. Here is a quote:

“And if you love something?
You don’t think about time at all.
At most something like, Goodness is it that late already?”

And that’s just what I’m thinking now. Time to close off. Thanks for your time and hope to see you again next time!

Cycling to Giethoorn

Hello! Before I get back to more ‘serious’ posts about knitting, spinning etc. I’d like to take you along on two more outings this week.

In a roundabout way, this bicycle track leads to the charming village of Giethoorn. The track is bordered by a beautiful flowering verge. To my delight I see a group of common yellow swallowtails fluttering around the red clover. There are at least ten of them!

With a wingspan of about 7.5 cm/3”, this is one of our largest native butterflies. Contrary to what the name suggests, it is not common. At least not in this part of the country. I saw the first one ever in our garden only last year. It seems they are gradually moving north with the rising temperatures. And now a whole group of them! I know that a group of geese is called a gaggle, but what is the word for a group of butterflies? A flock? A flight? A flutter?

Among the plants in the verge are wild herbs like watermint, soothing for stomach and mind.

There is valerian, too, also flowering at this time of the year, another calming plant.

Picking them for a herbal brew is not allowed here, in this nature reserve, but just drinking in their scent and their colour is soothing enough in itself.

A little further on, a white stork is gorging on frogs. There are plenty of those in this wetland environment.

A cow is dozing in the sun with two starlings on its back. It is all so peaceful – an oasis of peace in a crazy world.

And then the smell of pancakes tells me that I’m in Giethoorn. It is not as quiet as last year, but still not as busy with tourists as it normally is.

Giethoorn is lovely all year round, but especially now, when the hydrangeas are in flower.

There are hydrangeas in almost every garden, and they come in many varieties and colours. The deep pink mophead ones are the most common.

But there are also hydrangeas with flat or pointy flowerheads, in many shades of blue, pink and purple, as well as white ones.

In some places it is almost too much.

I’ve taken a zillion pictures and am having a hard time limiting the number here. Before I stop, I just have to include this one, with the house with the blue shutters mirrored in the water.

It is getting late, so I cycle home without stopping. Only back in our own, slightly less charming, village do I squeeze my brakes to take a few more pictures, because the sheep are back!

A flock of sheep visits us several times a year. Instead of the heavy machinery that used to do it, they now mow the grass in green spaces around the area. And here they are ‘at work’ in the local business park.

And this lovely day doesn’t end here. Back home a surprise awaits me – a parcel from Devon, UK.

Finally, the yarn I’d ordered for something I was going to knit during my summer break. I’d left it a bit late and then it got held up at customs.

It is a heathered organic wool in a gradient of pinks, from palest watermint pink to deep hydrangea pink. No, wait, I don’t think hydrangeas come in this particular shade of pink. It is more like foxglove.

Instead of a summer project, it is now something to look forward to for autumn. You’ll probably see it cropping up in blog posts later this year. Well, that’s all for today. Hope to see you again for another outing in a few days’ time!

PS: Last summer I wrote a blog post about crochet curtains in Giethoorn. For anyone who missed it, it can be found here.

Woolly Country Life

There was a small market in the square behind the church in the photo at the top. This market – called Wollig Landleven (Woolly Country Life) – visits a different village in our part of the country every month from spring through autumn. It is a lovely small-scale event.

The Country Life part refers to ‘essentials’ like soaps, sausages, cheese, herb teas, clothes and all kinds of knick-knacks for the home. My favourite of these is the baker with his wood-fired oven.

The smell is heavenly, and their lovingly displayed loaves are delicious as well as a feast for the eyes.

But I mainly came for the Woolly part, of course. There was wool in different forms. There were raw fleeces in plastic bags…

… complete sheep skins…

… and hand-dyed fibres for felting and spinning.

The last time I went to a ‘real’ crafts fair was in February 2020, and no indoors yarn events will be held here in the near future, as far as I know. The organizers of our regional (indoor) crafts fair are now aiming for February 2022. This market only gets permission because it is outdoors and complies with all the regulations, lilke one-way traffic and a limited number of visitors. And we still need to be careful to keep a 1.5 metres distance, disinfect our hands etcetera.

But in spite of all that, the atmosphere is relaxed, and it is wonderful to stroll around looking at the wares and just be among people. It takes some getting used to that again. There was one person who stood out because of her daring and original outfit.

Looking at the shawl now, it occurs to me that it might be a Stephen West design. And yes, a quick Ravelry search tells me that it is Slipstravaganza. He is so creative, and his designs really stand out.

I enjoyed looking at several baskets filled with handspun yarns. To me it is always inspiring to see what choices other people make. What colours did they choose to combine? How many plies? How thick or thin is their yarn? Is it slubby or even?

It was a lovely surprise to meet two new indie dyers. The first was Wat Wollie (which is a pun in the local dialect and could be translated as What WOOLd you like). Petra dyes her yarns in beautiful saturated colours.

Apart from at these markets, she also sells her yarns through Etsy, and her website can be found here. Petra has only been knitting for a few years, but has quickly become an accomplished knitter, as her sweater shows. I forgot to ask which pattern she used, but I think it is Goldwing by Jennifer Steingass.

The stall next to hers was that of Badcattoo Yarn. It’s fun to see how every dyer has her own style. Badcattoo’s yarns are generally lighter and often have parts left undyed. She also has a website.

For a long time now, my policy has been only to buy yarns with a specific project in mind. But for once I’ve deviated from that rule and bought a skein from both dyers with no idea what I’m going to do with them yet. I had some pocket money to spend on frivolous things, after all.

Both are fingering-weight yarns with a percentage of nylon in them. Top right is Badcattoo’s yarn in lovely pale sky blues with black, white and brown tweedy neps. And bottom left Wat Wollie’s skein in deeper hues of blue and purple, with a few brown speckles here and there.

It felt so good to be hanging out with my ‘tribe’ again for a while.

For anyone living in or near Drenthe, an overview of upcoming Wollig Landleven markets can be found here.

No Plan but a List

Hello, I’m back (although I haven’t really been away). I hope you’ve had a good summer and feel ready to get back to normal life, in as far as it can be called normal at the moment.

Beforehand, I imagined myself during my Summer Break like the sculpture above, only slightly more curvy and with a pair of knitting needles in my hands. No plan, just lazing about.

Except… I’m not the lazing-about-type (I must have been an ant in a previous life or something). I soon realized that staying at home with a husband working through the summer, there was the danger of my two precious weeks becoming two very ordinary weeks. I still didn’t feel like making a plan, but I needed something to give me some sort of direction. So, I got out a notebook and made a list.

A list of things that make a summer holiday into a summer holiday for me. It included:

  • Travel
  • No alarm clock
  • Simple, orderly environment (tent or cottage)
  • Read a foreign magazine
  • No newspaper, no tv
  • Grocery shopping in an unfamiliar shop (I love those huge French Hypermarchés, and the aisles with dozens of different types of muesli and honey in German supermarkets)
  • Spend as much time outdoors as possible
  • Lots of exercise (cycling, walking)
  • Lots and lots and lots of time for crafting and reading
  • Simple food, try a few new things
  • Sightseeing, visit a town, city, museum
  • Some pocket money to spend on frivolous things
  • Send postcards
  • Eat or drink something somewhere
  • Several new books to read
  • Take photographs
  • Keep a diary

Most of the items seemed doable, although some would require a little imagination. I didn’t want it to be a to-do-list with items to check off, just something I could use as a kind of compass. I didn’t do everything on it. One of the things I did do, was take photographs. Loads of them.

Photographs of landscapes…

… lovely houses…

… flowering heather…

… and many, many more.

I didn’t go grocery shopping in one of those big French or German supermarkets, but I did visit a health food shop close by that I’d never been to. They had a display of deliciously fresh looking vegetable plants outside…

… and some lovely honey and other nice things inside.

I did send a few postcards, but I didn’t keep to the ‘no newspaper, no tv’ item on my list. I felt the need to stay informed, and especially the publication of the IPCC climate report felt too important to not read about.

So scary! But the hopeful thing about it is that it seems to have conveyed a sense of urgency. I often struggle with the bad news from around the world. How can I enjoy a Summer Break and blog about small pleasures when so much is going wrong?

This is one of the books I have been reading during my Summer Break:

It is set in an imaginary place in Ireland (travel!), far removed from the real world. In it I found a nugget of wisdom that applies to our everyday world as well: ‘… even in times of death, destruction and ignorance, there are still good people who can make a difference.’ (p. 90)

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Trying to be a good person making a difference. And to be able to do that, we need a break from time to time. Knitting isn’t going to save the world, but at least it isn’t making things worse either. So, I’ve sat knitting and reading on our veranda, behind the flowering dill, quite a bit.

And although the weather was unreliable, I’ve also been walking for hours and cycling for miles and miles.

I didn’t keep a diary, but I’d like to write about a few of the things I’ve seen along the way and thought I’d do that here over the next couple of weeks. It’s far too much for one or two blog posts, so there’ll be a few more than my usual Friday ones. Hope you don’t mind.

What I would have liked to do as well, was visit a few yarn shops in the area, but most of them were having a Summer Break just like me. The only one I visited did have some nice yarns…

… but otherwise was such a mess…

… that I beat a quick retreat and won’t even tell you where it was. But not to worry – there will be a few other crafts-related things to share.

Bye for now, and see you again soon!

(This isn’t my bicycle, but a purely ornamental one in a neighbour’s garden.)

Places to Sit and Knit 2

Hello, and welcome to another Place to Sit and Knit. It’s there, under the giant white-and-yellow striped parasol behind the artichokes. I hadn’t planned on writing the second instalment in this series so soon, but couldn’t resist.

It was our niece who brought us here. She has been a student at Nijmegen university for a year now – a lonely year filled with zoom lectures. She rents a room in a house with several other students in a village outside the city. We arrive bearing a basket filled with goodies and a pair of old-fashioned crochet pot holders.

We’ve kept in touch by e-mail, Whatsapp, snailmail and phone, but it is wonderful to see her face IRL again and to finally see where she has been studying so diligently on her own all year. I really, really hope our young people will be able to have a slightly more normal life after the summer.

After several mugs of tea/coffee and a guided tour of the village we paid a visit to the local windmill.

It is no longer functioning, but now houses a shop selling everything a home baker will ever need, from dozens of different kinds of flour to seeds and nuts, dried fruit, yeast, baking tins, proofing baskets and much more.

To my husband this is what a yarn shop is to me. This time I was the one waiting patiently outside. (I didn’t mind – I brought my knitting.) This time it was my turn to ask, ‘Did you get everything you wanted? Are you sure you don’t need anything else?’

As we rarely get to this part of the country, we thought we’d better cram as much into our day as possible. So, on to our next stop: Nijmegen Botanical Garden. There are actually two gardens separated by a beech avenue: the botanical garden proper and a flower garden.

On the afternoon of our visit, the bog area of the botanical garden looked like something from a fairy tale.

At least from a distance. I hope they’ve been able to keep the wedding dress and the bridegroom’s shoes from getting too muddy and their tempers from getting too frayed. Whose idea was it to take wedding pictures in a bog anyway?

The Friesian horses drawing their fairy tale carriage were pacing back and forth outside the garden, only stopping for me to take a picture.

It’s beautiful to look at, but I’m so glad I’ve never had to go through the ordeal of a fairy tale wedding like that.

Today’s Place to Sit and Knit is in the flower garden. There are lots of lovely places to sit and knit here. Ordinary benches surrounded by flowers.

And extraordinary seats covered in foliage.

We’re heading for the tables and chairs under the big parasol.

Time for some tea, fruit juice and carrot cake. Did you bring your knitting? What are you making?

I’m ‘working’ on my new shawl design, using a combination of silk/mohair lace yarn and a fingering-weight merino yarn. It doesn’t look like much yet, does it? It’s a work in progress and I’m not ready to show you more at this stage. Sorry! These things always take a long time, at least for me. I plan to have the pattern finished sometime in September. Saying that here out loud feels like giving myself a deadline, and I think that’s a good thing or I’ll stay dithering over the details forever.

At the first of our Places to Sit and Knit, my blogging friend Helga from Sweden told me about a linen top she is knitting, using a pattern called Siw (Ravelry link). It is an oversized top with a lovely lace panel on the shoulders. It might be just the thing for some linen yarn that has been marinating in my stash for a while.

My yarn is thinner than the yarn used in the pattern, but it may work. I’ll swatch and see.

With the 1,071,226 patterns currently available on Ravelry, it can be hard to decide what to knit. There are all kinds of filters available to help us choose, but for me nothing beats tips and inspiration from friends – real-life knitting friends, Ravelry friends and friends met in the blogosphere. Thanks, Helga! How is your Siw coming along?

It’s nice here, isn’t it, just sitting and knitting, sipping a drink, and enjoying the flowers (click on images to enlarge). And the best thing is: admission is free and you can come back anytime you like!

A Very Special Day

Hello!

I’m faced with a dilemma. Last week I ended with the mention of a very special occasion coming up, and I promised to write about it. An occasion that has kept me occupied day and night for a while. You see, our daughter got married! But… how interesting is that for other people? And wasn’t this a blog about knitting? And how about the young couple’s privacy?

It would have been okay to blog about the wedding if I’d knit her fabulous lace wedding dress, perhaps, but I didn’t. In that case they would have had to plan their wedding years in advance, and they didn’t. The dress she wore was chiffon covered in pale pink roses.

There were roses in the bridal bouquet and the bridegroom’s buttonhole, too. And pink was a bit of a theme as well, with a pink ribbon around one of the gifts…

… the bridegroom wearing a pink tie, and pink shoes on the bride’s feet. Aww, look at those.

Sometimes it seems like only yesterday that she wore these.

Can you hear a mother’s melancholy sigh? Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy that my daughter’s so happy. And I also feel enriched by the presence of the man of her choice in our lives. But still…

Recently I was re-reading Towers in the Mist by one of my favourite authors…

… and read this: ‘Every fresh beginning was a new birth and must have its pain as well as its joy, and without these fresh beginnings there could be no life, without them we should turn sour like stagnant water in a pond.’

Exactly. Fortunately, my overriding feeling about this very special day is joy. It was special in a romantic sense.

And special as well because of the current circumstances. A really big, old-fashioned wedding was out of the question. Apart from the bride and groom, there were only six people present. Everyone wore face masks and even the floor of the city hall where the ceremony was held, reminded us of the necessary 1.5 metres distance.

Yes, a very special day. But, hey, I wasn’t going to bore you with endless family pictures and talk of the wedding. Let’s go for a walk around Zutphen, the city where the wedding was held. No towers in the mist here, but towers under a lowering sky.

Church towers…

… and gate towers.

Zutphen is such a romantic and picturesque city, with beautiful old city walls…

… surrounded by orchards and gardens.

Photogenic spots everywhere…

…you…

…look.

The only negative thing I can think of about it at the moment, is that it lacks a yarn shop. There is a lovely quilt shop though.

It specializes in flowery fabrics. Some very special ones are their collection of Dutch Heritage Fabrics. I’m much more of a knitter than a quilter, although I’ve made a few quilts in the past, but I do enjoy making small things with beautiful fabrics.

I must come back when the shop is open and I have more time someday.

Well, it seems like my dilemma has somehow solved itself. Hope you have enjoyed my pictures, and I will really make an effort to get back to knitting over the coming weeks.

Time Slot

Fun, aren’t they, these colourful knitted chickens? They live in the shop window of ‘t Ryahuis, one of the oldest (or the oldest?) yarn shops in the country. It was founded in 1963 by current owner Liane’s Mum and named for a Swedish craft form called rya that was popular back then. I think it is some sort of rug hooking, but correct me if I’m wrong.

Today, hardly anybody knows what rya is anymore, but every knitter around here knows ‘t Ryahuis. This (below) isn’t the best of pictures, and it doesn’t do the lovely window display justice, but it gives an impression of the outside of the shop.

All non-essential shops have been closed here from mid-December. If I’d been on the committee deciding what an essential shop is things would have been different, but as it was ‘t Ryahuis had to close its doors too. Fortunately, we can now book a time slot at ‘non-essential’ shops. It has to be booked at least 4 hours in advance, there can be no more than 2 customers in a shop at any one time, and the time slot has to be for a minimum of 10 minutes.

When Liane e-mailed me that the yarn I’d ordered had arrived, I immediately booked a time slot. Fortunately it was a lot more generous than those 10 minutes and I had enough time to browse around and take loads of pictures to share with you.

Let’s start with some yarn.

Ahhh, doesn’t it feel good just to look at… well, yarn? (I may be slightly deranged, but for me it feels so good to just look at all the colours and textures.) There’s some tweed there, some mohair, some alpaca and even a few sequins.

Every yarn shop has its own signature. One of the special things about ‘t Ryahuis is that they have many, many knitted shop samples to look at for inspiration or to try on.

There is this rack, and another one like it…

… shawls and scarves hanging or lying around everywhere…

… and there are several torsos and mannequins showing off knitwear.

I don’t know what cardigan this lady is wearing, but the shawl is a Stephen West design. I’m not entirely sure, but I think it is Vertices Unite.

While I was browsing around, a parcel was delivered and I heard Liane exclaim, ‘Yay, it’s from our knitter! That was quick!’ The summer top in it was immediately put on one of the mannequins.

It is knit in a linen yarn and the pattern is from the latest issue of Lang Fatto a Mano.

One other customer had booked a time slot at the same time. She needed some yarn and had a question about casting off a huge shawl (I think it was over 2 metres long) she was knitting for her daughter. While she (right) and Liane (left) were looking at it, I quickly snapped a picture (asking permission, of course).

It is a Rowan design, knit in their Alpaca Classic. And I can tell you, it doesn’t only look gorgeous, it is also unbelievably soft.

Apart from us, customers, and Liane, there was somebody else there as well – shop dog Ollie.

Sadly, Ollie met with an accident several years ago and will have to wear braces on two of his legs for the rest of his life. He is such a gentle and calming presence in the shop.

I don’t want to make this too long, because I want to show you a bit of the village, too, but there are a few more things I just have to show you.

During normal times, the shop hosts lots of knitting workshops and knit-‘n-natter groups. People will be sat around this table now covered in knitting books and yarns.

Even the lamp has a knitted shade, and two mannequins wearing knitted items (what else?) are looking on.

One of them has a Kaffe Fasset scarf around her neck…

… and the other one is wearing a light and fluffy cream sweater with subtle colour details and a lace scarf.

I didn’t ask, but looking at it, I think that the sweater is a Marianne Isager design.

Finally, let’s take a look at what is tucked away on top of this wall of yarn.

Hidden just out of sight in the top left corner is a row of hats.

And next to them a collection of knitted monkeys, bears and mice designed by Anita from Zij Maakt Het. Another one of her monkeys, called Saar, is in the shop window looking out. Do check out Anita’s website. Her stuffed toys are adorable and very cleverly constructed.

Well, time’s up. For more information about ‘t Ryahuis, please visit their website. They don’t sell all of their yarns online, but they do have a webshop for Isager yarns, and another one for knitting kits.

Because it was such mild and sunny weather and I had the entire afternoon to myself, I took a stroll through the village afterwards. The village of Zuidlaren is famous for its annual horse fair.

As you may know, I love looking at beautiful houses, and there are enough of those here. In the traditional farmhouse style…

… as well as many other styles.

I walked to the small harbour at the end of the village…

… because I wanted to take a look at the mill museum.

Like just about everything else, it was closed, but still nice to take a look at from the outside. The mill dates from 1851 and used to grind grain and spices, and press oil from flax seed.

Walking back to the car, I passed a flower shop. Flower shops are the only shops considered ‘semi-essential’. Like most other shops, they are closed to customers inside (apart from time slots now), but they can sell their wares outside.

Those lemons can’t be real, surely?

Well, I think that was a fabulous outing. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. Oh, and here is my ‘loot’.

Rowan Kidsilk Haze and Fine Lace for a cardigan, Isager Bomulin for a summer top, and some Regia sock yarn. That should keep me busy for a while.

Wishing you a relaxed weekend. Don’t forget to take a snooze now and then! Xxx

Note: My blog isn’t sponsored. I just like writing about yarn and believe in supporting small and local businesses, especially during these difficult times.

Feels like Spring

Hello!

Today I’m writing to you from and entirely different world compared to two weeks ago. The snow melted away in no time, and suddenly it feels like spring. The spring bulbs in our garden are bursting into flower.

It’s not just crocuses and snowdrops, but also winter aconites,

and dwarf irises, yellow and blue.

It’s so lovely to feel the warmth of the sun, hear the birds sing their hearts out, and enjoy the flowers and the buzzing of the first bees.

And yet… there is this gnawing feeling.

It shouldn’t be like this in February – it’s unseasonally warm. The highest temperatures ever measured in this month for 5 days in a row. I don’t want to be a spreader of doom and gloom, but I can’t just ignore such signs of a changing climate. I’ve heard that it affects different parts of the world differently. Here in the Netherlands the climate has changed noticeably even in my lifetime (less than sixty years!).

Seems to me that if we want to leave our children, grandchildren and their children with a liveable planet so that they, too, can enjoy the beautiful signs of spring…

… we urgently need to learn how to be good ancestors.

Speaking of ancestors, on Sunday we visited a lovely place our ancestors left us. It’s a country estate that for centuries belonged to a wealthy family and is now owned by a nature conservation organization.

The 17th century house with stepped gable, surrounded by a moat with a bridge leading to the front door, is no longer there. The only buildings left are five tenant farms. These are the stables of one of them, now converted to living space.

The estate is part woodland,

part pasture (the cows are still inside at this time of year.)

Like many other farms in our region, the farms on the estate all have their own little baking house. Can you see the small white rectangle on the wall of this baking house?

Let’s zoom in – it’s a face! A person with a high forehead, no nose to speak of, and an elegant hairdo. Is it just a decoration, a household deity, or the likeness of somebody who used to do their baking here?

Going for a walk here, is like traveling a century or so back in time.

Apart from going for short walks, enjoying the garden, worrying about the climate and the pandemic, and generally doing what I need to do, I’ve also done some knitting. My blue Panel Debate cardigan is nearly finished and I’m knitting swatches and prototypes for a pair of fingerless mitts.

The yarn I originally had in mind for them didn’t behave as I thought it would. Looking for an alternative, I found several skeins in my stash that were meant for something else, but will be just perfect for my mitts.

I want to make a single colour and a 2-colour version. It is hard to capture the colours exactly. There is an off-white undyed cream, a dusty blue and a warm cherry red. What shall I do? Cream and blue for the 2-colour version, and red for the single-colour one?

Or cream and red for the 2-colour version, and blue for the single-colour one?

What do you think?

I hope you’ve enjoyed the flowers and the walk, and would be grateful for some help with the colours. I’m in doubt. Is the blue-and-cream combo nice and subtle or too bland? Is the red-and-cream combo nice and cheerful or too Christmassy?

Thanks and take care! xxx